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Teeth Brushing :: The Struggle is Real

If I were a bettin’ woman, I would bet you that two of my three children will each cry or throw a tantrum no fewer than twice a day. Guaranteed. I’m talking full on, actual tear-producing, foot stomping, tantrum. Ones that, more times than not, will result in a punishment of some sort. Something like no Kindle time or no dessert after dinner.

What, you may ask, is the reason for these daily episodes? Is it bad conduct at school? Nope. Is it hitting one another? Nope. Is it talking back or being ugly to Mommy? Nope and nope.

It’s being asked to brush their teeth.

Yes, teeth brushing, for my two boys is some sort of sick torture that I like to impose on them daily.

teethbrushing the struggle is real memphis moms blog lorrin saliba

You would think that I asked them to yank their teeth out of their head with pliers, chew on ground glass, and then gargle with straight alcohol each and every day. Every morning we have the same routine: wake up, get dressed, come downstairs, eat breakfast, get book bags and lunches put together, brush your teeth...

Insert sound of tires screeching

“Ugggghh Why?!”
“Do we have to?!”
“I don’t want to!”
“Its Reece’s turn to go first!”
“I don’t know where my toothpaste is…”

Arguing back and forth happens. Then, 10 critical morning minutes past and now we're late and have to leave, like, now! And we leave, knowing no one has brushed their teeth.

Dylan cheeks

What do you do?  Hope and pray that one day they grow out of this nonsense?  Keep upping the punishments until they are regulated to their rooms and only come out for bread and water?   To me it’s the absolute craziest thing ever, but like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I relive these episodes daily.  Twice a day with both boys.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

We need help.  So I decided to try and figure out what has worked in the past to make this process better and what has not.  The torture cannot go on much longer.  I went back to when we were starting the routine with my oldest.  When you’re just dealing with one, it’s a little easier, I recall.  For some reason, sibling rivalry rears its ugly head at the most inappropriate times.  I wouldn’t know, I’m an only.

So here is my list of things that might help if you are in the same situation that we are:

  1. Brushing charts with stickers and rewards – This is what we actually started off with.  Stickers for each successful day of brushing and rewards for a full week of drama-free brushing.  This worked for a while and might be re-introduced in our house soon.  I think we forgot to mark a few days and then it became an afterthought.
  2. Singing toothbrushes – They are pretty cool and do work for my older one now with little drama. The music plays inside your head when you touch the bristles to your teeth. It plays for 2 minutes and when the song stops, you’re done!
  3. Toothbrushing apps – <<insert groan>> Now we have to have an app to brush our teeth?!  Whatever, I’ll give it a try! Dylan likes the little guys on the Brusheez app alot.  There is also a Disney Frozen app.  And I found one more that might be fun, called Aquafresh's Brush Time.
  4. Mirroring or partnering: This is their least favorite so far, but it's effective: they brush when we brush.  It’s not convenient because I do this way before they even get out of bed.  This just means that I’m brushing extra and after I have on makeup and a clean top.  At night it’s a little better to just drag them in there with me before tuck-ins.
  5. Fear and disgust – Before you go calling Family Services, I don’t mean physical intimidation.  I mean visual aids.  I found a few photos of ugly nasty donkey teeth and taped them up in their bathroom.  Then I wrote big signs that said “Don’t be a donkey, Brush your teeth!”  Really, go Google "donkey teeth" and see what you get.  Aside from  being pretty hilarious, it actually worked pretty well and they loved seeing the gross photos when I changed them out with new ones.  Boys are weird that way.


All kidding aside, dental decay is the nation's most common chronic childhood disease, affecting 16.5 million children. In the U.S., oral disease causes kids to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually.  So do whatever it takes to get those kids to brush!

I’d like to hear your ideas on what we can try next.  Tell me what has worked for you.

The struggle is real, folks, and I’m willing to try almost anything.

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